It’s PCS season, which means there is chaos reigning in many military households this summer. But, as always, it’s controlled chaos because if we military families are good at anything, it’s staying organized and calm in the midst of boxes, paper, and ever-changing plans. Outside of the packing, there is also another part of PCSing that many families have to consider – a cross-country drive to their new duty station.

To say that a cross-country PCS with kids is an adventure is an understatement. If you decide to make the drive with your family, you have to prepare yourself for several days worth of in-car activities, snacks, entertainment, and places to stop along the way. You want to make the drive as enjoyable as possible without falling off the wagon in terms of your family’s health and daily needs. Most families will stop at fast food joints during the drive because, frankly, it’s one of the easiest options. But it isn’t the healthiest, or even the most convenient option. Here are a few reasons why you should choose a convenience store for your ultimate PCS stops: 

Stopping at a Gas Station for Food? YES!

It is pretty well known for military families that travel during a PCS is a time to eat a ton of junk food snacks, have fast food for every meal, and not a whole lot of physical activity. But this can wreak havoc on your body when driving for days on end, especially if you aren’t used to eating that way. Finding healthy options while eating on the go seems like it might be difficult, but with the new healthy initiative set forth by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), families are now able to choose healthier snacks and meals when they stop at convenience stores. 

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Many convenience stores now offer healthy option sections right in the front of the store where you can get fresh fruit, salads, healthy sandwiches, cheese and fruit trays, yogurt, and more. These healthy options are much more suited to long travel days versus fast food places.

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Stopping at a convenience store gets you on the road faster, too. You can get gas, use the restroom, and get snacks and meals for the road all in one stop. The NACS recently did a summer drive survey where they found that the top three reasons people stop during road trips (like a PCS drive!) are: to use the restroom, to get gas, or to buy food and drinks. There is only one place you can do all those things- at a convenience store!

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Our family recently did a cross-country PCS from Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas to Camp Pendleton, California. As a self-proclaimed health buff, eating fast food at every stop wasn’t an option for me or my family. When we learned about NACS’ healthy initiative, we decided to try to make most of our pit stops at convenience stores so we would have healthier options. We found that going stopping here made a world of difference because: 

  • We were able to choose healthy options like cheese, grapes, apple slices, and more, all in convenient carry trays that made it easier for us to eat while driving or for our girls to eat in the car.
  • My husband could fill the car and moving truck with gas while I went with the girls to choose road trip snacks and use the restroom, saving us time.
  • The girls enjoyed being able to pick their own snacks instead of us handing them a bag of fast food.
  • We were all able to get out of the car and stretch our legs (even play a little bit in open areas) instead of just going through a drive-thru.

Other Ways to Keep Your Family Healthy on Your Cross-Country PCS

There are several ways you can ensure that your family stays (mostly) on track with healthy eating and some continued physical activity during your road trip this PCS season, including:

  1. Get Your Workout In- You might be wondering how you can stay active when you’re in the car all day, but try to make it a priority during your overnight stays to get a quick workout in either before you head to bed or before you hit the road. Even a quick 20 minute HIIT or some yoga will make you feel better, more energized, and keep you on track.
  2. Find Hotels with Continental Breakfast- Not only will this save you money, but you also will have healthier options to choose from versus fast food joints like fruit, yogurt, eggs, and whole wheat toast.
  3. Check out Play Across America– This website, created and run by a military family, has lists of playgrounds all around the country. You can search specifically for the route you are taking on your road trip to find any playgrounds around you where you can stop and let the kids play for a bit.
  4. Bring Snacks with You- When stopping at a convenience store, grab a couple extra snacks to keep with you in the car for munching. This helps pass the time without the guilt of eating another carton of french fries.
  5. Make Better Choices for Treats- All military families know that sometimes you need sweet treats to bribe your kids during long PCS road trips. There are several healthier options like organic candies or candies with no dyes or preservatives available to you in the healthy section at convenience stores.

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Making the drive across country is no small feat, especially when you have small feet in the backseat with you. Many families think that the only way to get through the drive is with lots of treats, fast food for every meal, and prayers that no one gets car sick. Although the last one always holds true, you don’t have to compromise your health and wellness even though you’re on the road. Making stops at a convenience store rather than a fast food place offers you the ability to make healthier choices and get on the road faster. Make your health your priority this PCS season as best you can with healthy choices and activities.

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